Berardino: Jake Long On "Shaky Ground"

Miami Dolphins left tackle Jake Long, here celebrating a touchdown with quarterback Matt Moore, must be on his way out of Miami since the team drafted Jonathan Martin, right?

The 2012 NFL Draft overwhelmed the NFL, and the sports world, for the last few days. As everyone focused on the new players coming to their teams, Mike Berardino of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, took a look at one player he thinks could be leaving the Miami Dolphins soon - starting left tackle Jake Long.

You know, the 4-time Pro Bowl player? The two time All Pro? The 2008 All-Rookie Team member? The 2011 Ed Block Courage Award Winner - an award voted upon by his teammates? Yeah, that guy.

According to Berardino, the evidence of the Dolphins' plans to move on from the player recognized as one of the top two left tackles in the game is easy to see - the team drafted Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin in the second round of the Draft. Nevermind that the Dolphins were starting a right tackle last season that probably could not have found a starting role on most high school teams - Martin's presence clearly signals the end of Long's days in Miami, right?

Berardino looks at the idea of Martin playing right tackle for the Dolphins:

"Last time Martin spent any real time on the right side of the line? That would be back at California's Harvard-Westlake High School, where he played strongside tackle.

"At Stanford, Martin estimated he only saw "a few snaps" on the right side, not that he can't make the transition and beat out Lydon Murtha and Artis Hicks.

"Hey, the young man was a Classics major. He comes froma long line of Harvard graduates.

"I'm pretty sure he can figure out how to turn this way instead of that.

"The better question for the Dolphins is why would they want him to?"

The Sun-Sentinel report also points to a statement from general manager Jeff Ireland about Martin as evidence that Long is on his way out of South Florida:

"We're not going to be as much a power scheme as we've been in the past. So his athletic ability and ... quickness and ability to play in space transfers to this scheme probably a lot better than any other scheme.

"Jake Long can transfer to any scheme," Ireland continued, "in any offense and any team in the National Footballl League, in my opinion. I think the guy is a tremendous athlete. He's quick. He's strong. He can do it."

The ridiculousness of the idea that Jake Long is "on shaky ground," as Berardino puts it, even led to NFL.com, among other outlets, picking up on the idea. The NFL.com story about Miami preparing for "life after Jake Long" points to Long's injuries last year and the low salary of Martin as why Long could be allowed to walks away from Miami next offseason:

"Long, the first overall pick in the 2008 draft, has been an impact player for the Dolphins, earning four Pro Bowl bids for his play. But he's also coming off a season in which he was slowed by knee and biceps injuries. He's due to make $11.2 million in 2012, the final season of his rookie deal.

"Because of the restructured rookie salary structure, Martin will be a bargain in comparison. Could financial realities combined with health concerns lead to the Dolphins moving on from Long?"

That's right. Long fought injuries all last year, including missing games for the first time in his career. He was hampered by a bad shoulder, a bad knee, and a back injury throughout the year, before tearing his bicep in the second-to-last game of the season. And, what was the result of all those injuries, and a "down-year" for Long? Another selection to the Pro Bowl.

So, obviously, those injuries are signaling the end of his career, right?

Last season, the Miami Dolphins offensive line allowed a team record 53 sacks. The best way to fix that problem is to get rid of the All Pro anchoring the offensive line at left tackle, right?

Obviously, the drafting of a right tackle signals the end of the left tackle's career. Using that logic, should Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson, who fought injuries last year and is among the highest paid wide outs in the league, should be on his way out the door because the Texans selected Ohio State receiver DeVier Posey in the third round.

The idea that Long's days are numbered in Miami is so unfounded that even Ireland felt like he had to weigh in. Before he even started talking about the Dolphins' 2012 Draft class, Ireland spoke about Long at his post draft press conference:

"Before we get started I want to clear the air on an article, I don't normally go overboard on media speculation but last night I saw an article about Jake Long. I have plans to keep Jake Long right here for a long time. So, don't get ahead of ourselves and you guys have a question, especially on that here on a press conference standpoint. You guys are obviously free to ask me about those things and I'll give you as honest an answer as I can. We have plans to keep Jake around here. We drafted Jonathan Martin to be a tackle on this football team. A right tackle on this football team so let's don't speculate any further than that."

Hopefully that will end the ridiculous speculation that drafting a right tackle will be the end of the line for the team's left tackle.

But, probably not.

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